Moving onto WordPress.org, the self-hosted platform for WordPress, was one of the best things I’ve done with my blog, although I’ve sometimes wondered whether I should have stayed on the free version, WordPress.com.

The decision was made in autumn 2013 when WordPress.com added adverts to your posts unless you paid a premium for them not to.  It wasn’t a lot of money per blog, but it added up to much more than the amount I was already paying for a blog-hosting package from BargainHost.co.uk for my work blog.  I wasn’t using it much, so I started thinking about changing, and entering the (not actually very scary at all once I’d done it) world of sub-domains.

I started with the Princelings website.  Loading the WordPress software from my host was simple enough.  There’s a widget to help you load all sorts of proprietary software, and other blogging software, although I’ve never really explored other options.  I had the domain name princelings.co.uk so I added it to the domain name for this setup.  I didn’t do it the right way, which is why you see something else in the URL line in your browser when you use it.  I got that bit right for the rest of my blogs, so here you see jemimapett.com/something all the way through.

What I did wrong when I loaded Jemima onto the blogging platform was to set it up to run as a network, using one copy of the WordPress software for many blogs.  It sounds so simple.  But it isn’t.  Unless you have ambitions to be a network administrator, don’t bother.

Those were the easiest bits.  I was really pleased with my new self-hosted WordPress blogs.  I can run Rafflecopters and Linky Lists on them.  I can have active widgets in the tool bars (like the Amazon book carousel and the Countdown thingy).

Then I discovered all the other things I hadn’t known… and I’m still learning.

  • where are my stats and like buttons?  You have to load Jetpack, a plug-in from WordPress.org for those.  OK, tick.
  • where are my stats and like buttons?  Oh, Jetpack has had an upgrade which hasn’t worked properly.  OK, I learned that when Jetpack upgrades on my site, for some reason it always leaves out the jetpack-admin.php file.  I can copy that in with my hosting dashboard.
  • why isn’t my dashboard loading?  99% of the time if the site is working perfectly on the outside but you can’t access the dashboard, there’s something wrong with a plug-in.  And 99% of the time so far, it’s been the Jetpack plugin upgraded and not added the jetpack-admin.php file.
  • why do I get so many problems with pages loading?  Jetpack is probably innocent.  By a set of curious chances (bonus prize if you get the allusion – leave a comment!)  I discovered I have trojans, viruses or trolls hidden among my files.  After trying to get rid of them with a plug-in called Wordfence, I discovered from my host support team that there was in fact a virus checker on my hosting dashboard.  It destroyed a trojan the first time I used it, and the problem with comments not loading has gone away… mostly.  It seems ok here, but White Water Landings still has page loading issues – but I may have solved that yesterday, since I discovered a plug-in upgrade hadn’t worked.  I bet you can’t guess which…
  • how to phrase problems for my host support team.  They are very good, but some of them don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Computer.  Conversations go like this:
    • me – I have a problem with my blog.  The dashboard doesn’t load.  I’ve tried doing x, and y and z, and it doesn’t work.  Can you help?
    • them – I understand that pqr is disabled. Try doing F(x) jgr(y) and ptg(z).  This will solve your problem.
    • me – I have tried those.  I have tried them again. It doesn’t work.
    • them – Try LTHG(c)
    • me – where do I find that?
    • them – I’ve done it for you.  The website is working.  Please clear your cache and check it.
    • me – thank you very much.
  • To be fair, that’s how I found out most of the problems are caused by Jetpack in particular, but plug-ins generally, not working after upgrades.  The general rule of problem solving looks like “disable all your plug-ins and see if it solves the problem.  If it does, add them in one at a time until you find which is causing the problem.”  Some plug-ins (and templates) interfere with each other.

The corollary to that last point is – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!  But… there are so many nice things to make my blog even nicer!

So, now the blog is working (fingers crossed) and I have learnt a huge amount about keeping it so.  Keeping it clean is the next task.  Surprisingly, I find that keeping it clean may be easier if I enter the strange world of Search Engine Optimization.  Ignore those spam comments about SEO – find something that will actually help you be found by people using search engines.  First task, to find out what SEO really is, in plain English.  Second, find something that will help me, in plain English.  Ah.

That’s another post entirely!  Hint: Yoast seem to converse with people only slightly more advanced than I am 🙂

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Self-hosted WordPress: what I’ve learnt in my first year

24 thoughts on “Self-hosted WordPress: what I’ve learnt in my first year

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:47 am
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    Is this on a self-hosted blog? How did you get this comment section to work? I have a bunch of self-hosters who would be happy to change to this style if they could!

    • 23 February, 2015 at 10:11 am
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      I’ve not had a problem with the comments showing up, but I do get problems sometimes with posting comments and then getting error 404 messages, as indicated in the bullets above. The new comments load ok on a page refresh, though.

      I’m not using the Jetpack comments though, and I haven’t enabled the option for users to sign in with whatever social network they want. So I’ve just got the basic comments set-up, and in settings require them to enter name and email. On some of the blogs they have to have a comment approved before. On this one they don’t, because it slows down blog hops with new visitors, but I don’t seem to get any more spam, in fact it’s a lot less since I destroyed the trojan.

      Have you got plug-ins that are interfering with it?

      • 23 February, 2015 at 10:14 am
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        Oh, no… It’s just I was able to use the WP.com comment box, instead of the form fill-out, which is odd, if you’ve set it up to be a form. O.o I don’t know. Haha~

        • 24 February, 2015 at 8:25 pm
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          Well, just to prove the gremlins are still about, it threw your last comment into the spam box, and then once I’d cleared it I had to go right back to approve it again – strange, because it usually only does that to my own comments :O Go figure!

  • 23 February, 2015 at 10:15 am
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    I bought my own .com address through WordPress and kept the WP format – not had your problems Jemima – one of the big drawbacks with .org WP blogs is that others cannot re-blog your great posts – like this one.
    So I’m going to do a TSRA workaround lol 😀

  • 23 February, 2015 at 3:41 pm
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    Mikado. (I didn’t check yet to see if anyone else got it).

    I think about going self-hosted…but this doesn’t totally inspire me! But I need to…

    • 23 February, 2015 at 5:41 pm
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      Correct! Don’t do it in a year when you’ve lots of publications planned. I realised after considering this that it’s one of the main reasons my schedule went topsy turvy last year.

  • 23 February, 2015 at 4:55 pm
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    I am very impressed with your bravery. I just daren’t! It would take all my time – although, I don’t like the adverts either.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • 23 February, 2015 at 5:45 pm
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      It has taken a lot of my time. If you only have one blog then the WP fees for no-ads and custom name are probably worthwhile, as long as you arent keen on running raffles and blog hops. Actually these ‘active’ widgets do slow down blog loading for people with slower computers or broadband, so WP restrictions do have a purpose.

      Fortunately, we have loads of choice in how to do our blogs!

  • 23 February, 2015 at 9:45 pm
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    Good post – I haven’t thought of this! Loved the pictures – you know I like critter pictures!

    • 24 February, 2015 at 12:02 pm
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      That’s George <3

  • 24 February, 2015 at 5:44 am
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    Thanks for posting this. I’m preparing to make the same move myself. This was really helpful.

    • 24 February, 2015 at 12:05 pm
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      You’re welcome, I’m glad it helped. When things are going smoothly I’m glad I did it; when they’re not I wish I hadn’t. But tenacity and the various helpdesks usually get me through! It does take up some of my writing time, though.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 12:16 pm
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    Thank you so much for this informative post. I have been thinking to move to dot org but I am afraid I won’t have to time to manage the self host. I don’t speak computer language either 😀 😀

    • 24 February, 2015 at 8:53 pm
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      It depends what you want from your blog. If you just need a non-wordpress name, you can apply that to a wordpress hosted site. Good luck with whatever path you take!

  • 24 February, 2015 at 12:27 pm
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    I hereby give this article my approval, just for the guinea pig.

  • 24 February, 2015 at 12:31 pm
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    I’m not moving, yet. But someday I might, and then I’ll know exactly who to hit up for advice. So good to be back in blogland!

    • 24 February, 2015 at 9:00 pm
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      It’s good to have you back, Damyanti. I realise my comment on your blog could be misconstrued. Something was missing, but now the light is back 🙂

      • 25 February, 2015 at 12:14 am
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        Lol Jemima, I’ve worked with you often enough not to misconstrue anything. Thanks for not abandoning my blog 🙂

  • 5 March, 2015 at 12:42 am
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    I realize that some of the reasons for moving to self-hosted don’t apply to those of us on Blogger. So maybe I could stay put….

    • 5 March, 2015 at 12:37 pm
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      Since I have blogs on both, just so as to have a presence on blogger (www.ppbooks.co.uk) I’d say WP has more flexibility in ways of making it look like it’s your own website rather than a blogging template. Then again, I explore WP more. It was a pain to get the blogger domain name set up, but then again, I saw a post saying they’d improved that recently.

      Then again, WP is independent (afaik), Blogger is part of the Google family. At least neither is Microsoft 🙂

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